William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth explores and challenges the idea of standard gender roles. The female characters in this novel have a strong sense of masculine traits while the male characters are actually shown with the feminine traits. This is basically an example of reverse stereotypical roles of genders One of the genders roles in society is that men are the workers and providers and essentially the strength of the family, as women are the nurturing and caring role and are labeled as emotional and inferior. Furthermore, a man’s physical strength is represented as being strong and brave at superior and horrific events. The roles between the Macbeths’ accelerate throughout the novel showing how the stereotypical gender roles are challenged and explored.
The Macbeths obviously do not represent the stereotypical husband and wife. Within the first couple acts of the novel when Lady Macbeth is being introduced, we can see the sense of dominance and power in her character over her husband, Macbeth. Lady Macbeth blatantly distinguishes herself as the dominant force in the the relationship. In the novel Macbeth by William Shakespeare, when Macbeth is hesitant of how to manage King Duncan’s visit to their home, Lady Macbeth instantly seizes control of the situation, demanding that Macbeth lets her take control of the situation as shown here “Let me handle tonight’s preparations, because tonight will change every night and day for the rest of our live.” (Shakespeare, 1.5 57-60). This is an example of how the gender roles are reversed as the men of our society are usually portrayed as being assertive to handling situations, not the women. Macbeth and his wife also switch roles in terms of the amount of ambition they show. While both characters obviously crave power, it is Lady Macbeth who is initially presented as the motivated force in the relationship. Her intentions are directed toward obtaining immediate power. In the novel Macbeth by William Shakespeare, after first learning about the witches’ predictions, she immediately creates a murder plan and takes charge of the situation. This made evident as she emotionlessly explains to her husband, “You should project a peaceful mood, because if you look troubled, you will arouse suspicion. Leave all the rest to me.” (Shakespeare, 1.5 63-65). Macbeth’s first reaction to the prophecy is somehow different in that he is hesitant of what actions should be done to successfully seal his future.
Macbeth and Lady Macbeth also exchange roles in terms of their expression of guilt. Initially, Lady Macbeth is completely unaffected by the thought of murder, and even directly after the murder of King Duncan, she remains unaffected by the act. In the novel Macbeth by William Shakespeare, it is recognized through the scene in which she handles Macbeth when he forgets to leave the gory daggers at the scene of the murder, “Coward! Give me the daggers. Dead and sleeping people can’t hurt you anymore than pictures can. Only children are afraid of scary pictures.” (Shakespeare, 2.2 52-55). Opposing to, Macbeth is portrayed as a physical and emotional mess, so much so that he refuses to re-enter the room in which the murder took place, “I can’t go back. I’m afraid even to think about what I’ve done. I can’t stand to look at it again.” (Shakespeare, 2.2 50-51). Macbeth is clearly disturbed by the murder and is troubled by the thought even before completing their plan. When talking about King Duncan he states, “The king trusts me in two ways. First of all, I am his kinsman and his subject, so I should always try to protect him. Second, I am his host, so I should be closing the door in his murderer’s face, not trying to proceed with murdering him myself.” (Shakespeare, 1.7 13-17). This shows how the typical gender roles are challenged through Macbeth by William Shakespeare, as the Macbeths’ gender roles are clearly in contrast to the typical gender roles that society has in just about every aspect. The Macbeths’ personalities reflect the inverse of the social standards and expectations, it is apparent that it becomes reversed as Lady Macbeth begins to lose her edge and assumes the more submissive role, while Macbeth assume the assertive position.
As Lady Macbeth begins to unravel, Macbeth becomes the more dominant and stronger force. She no longer has to persuade him to murder; as he starts to do so on his own. Whenever Macbeth fears someone stand in his way to maintain his kingship, he immediately develops plans for their murder. In the novel Macbeth by William Shakespeare, this is made obvious through his lack of care for Banquo when arranging his murder as seen here, “They can be killed, it’s true. So be cheerful. Before the bat flies through the castle, and before the dung beetle makes his little humming noise to tell us it’s nighttime, a dreadful deed will be done.” (Shakespeare, 3.2 41-44). The Macbeths acceleration takes up each other’s common behavior. Lady Macbeth is clearly seen manipulating people for her own benefit, which she uses in convincing him into killed King Duncan as seen here, “When you dared to do it, that’s when you were a man. And if you go one step further by doing what you dared to do before, you’ll be that much more the man. The time and place weren’t right before, but you would have gone ahead with the murder anyhow. Now the time and place are just right, but they’re almost too good for you. I have suckled a baby, and I know how sweet it is to love the baby at my breast. But even as the baby was smiling up at me, I would have plucked my nipple out of its mouth and smashed its brains out against a wall if I had sworn to do that the same way you have sworn to do this.” (Shakespeare, 1.7 48-59). Through launching such insults at him, Lady Macbeth is easily able to convince him to murder. However, in the novel Macbeth by William Shakespeare, after becoming king, Macbeth uses the same strategy when conferencing with the murderers he hired to get rid of Banquo as seen here, “Now, if you occupy some place in the list of men that isn’t down at the very bottom, tell me. Because if that’s the case, I will tell you a plan that will get rid of your enemy and bring you closer to me.” (Shakespeare, 3.1 103-106). While earlier Macbeth was reluctant to murder and was therefore pressured to do so by his wife, Lady Macbeth, he rapidly changes into an individual ready to kill. This description of Macbeth’s obvious lack of guilt directly resembles Lady Macbeth’s previous attitudes at the beginning acts of the novel.
The gender reversals of the Macbeth’s throughout the novel are evidently represented in multiple ways such as, their amount of ambition, dominance and assertiveness in their marriage, guilt and personalities. Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth explores and defies the idea of traditional gender standards through the plot progression within Macbeth, in which the roles of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth are reversed. Macbeth challenges the explicit gender roles that society has placed on, both past and present, men and women. Lady Macbeth and Macbeth switch gender roles and explicitly show the dominant traits that the other gender clearly possess. Lady Macbeth clearly breaks several gender roles and expectations with her cold-heart and evident masculine characteristics as Macbeth did the same with his more feminine characteristics. Yet, the plot progression throughout the novel negatively shows how the characters transition into more of their gender roles and how it leads to their downfall.